AOL Wins $13 Million Spammer Judgment

Gretchen Gallen
RESTON, Va. – Only days after Microsoft claimed victory against a spammer to the tune of $7 million, another Internet giant, America Online, won a similar spam victory – this time against an established “spam gang” known to generate some of the highest volume spam on the Internet.

Under the Can-Spam Act, AOL was granted a $13 million judgment in U.S. District Court in Virginia, including money and goods seized from the defendants’ personal property.

Seized goods from defendant Braden M. Bourneval included computer equipment, $20,000 in gold bars, $75,000 in cash and a 2003 Hummer. AOL has said that it will donate the seized goods to its subscribers in the form of an “AOL Spammer's Gold Sweepstakes.”

AOL’s reasoning for the sweepstakes is that many of its members aided in the search for spammers by using a "Report Spam" button to help AOL and detectives find those responsible.

Bourneval reportedly cooperated with investigators; however, defendant Davis Wolfgang Hawke is still at large and is said to be associated with neo-Nazi groups. The two men earned more than $100,000 per month based on the sale of tax evasion CD-ROMs, male sexual enhancement pills made from ephedra and lie detectors.

AOL reported hundreds of thousands of complaints against the spam the two men were generating, and demanded $100 in damages for each unsolicited email sent.

"This shows that under the tool that Congress gave us with Can-Spam, we can really reach out and touch them, and when we find them, we are going to hurt them badly," AOL’s general counsel said.

Earlier this week, Microsoft’s similar spam settlement marked a new era for companies to go after spammers for compensatory damages under the Can-Spam Act.

Can-Spam provides Internet service providers with legal weapons against those who send unsolicited email, in addition to the seizure of any property that a convicted spammer has obtained using money made from spam profits.

AOL’s sweepstakes will start on Aug. 19, when AOL subscribers and non-subscribers can sign up online for a chance to win the ill-gotten spammer’s goods.

AOL plans to donate the computer equipment seized from the spammers to public schools near its headquarters in Northern Virginia.